Antoine Fuqua has a fascination with cops and carnage. In his latest action-thriller, the director who has helmed big-budget flicks such as “Shooter,” “The Replacement Killers” and “Training Day” follows three cops serving at various levels of the NYPD hierarchy, who end up at the same deadly location after enduring different career paths.
Eddie, (Richard Gere) is a disgruntled patrolman who’s a week away from retirement after twenty two years with the department. Hawke as Sal, is an aggressive narcotics officer who's been stealing from drug dealers to support his family of five, whilst Don Cheadle as Tango plays a veteran cop who has been undercover for so long his loyalties have started to shift, and he’s begun to lose track of his 'real' life.
Over the course of several days -- seven to be precise -- the separate storylines of these conflicted city cops begin to unfold, coming together near the film's conclusion in Brooklyn's notorious Brownsville district.
With a star-studded cast which includes Will Patton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ellen Barkin and Wesley Snipes, the most engaging performance comes from Snipes who reprises a similar portrayal of the infamous drug czar Nino Brown in the movie New Jack City. Decked out in braids and bling with the threatening charisma of a great screen villain, Snipes plays the leader of a crime gang Tango has infiltrated.
“Finest” is a territory which has been explored in countless cop flicks -- one wants more, one’s undercover and the other could care less about the people he's sworn to protect. Although Fuqua attempts to cast light on the moral issues and complexities cops face on the force, the characters are not deep enough to warrant any emotional investment and there’s just not enough material to elicit any empathy.
When we first meet Sal (Ethan Hawke) he’s sitting in a car chatting amiably with a drug dealer whom he eventually shoots and robs. His motive? A desperation to secure a down payment for a house he simply cannot afford on a cop salary.
With plenty of blood, carnage and destruction, “Finest” does capture the volatile world of one of New York’s most dangerous precincts through the eyes of these officers. Despite offering little to distinguish itself from other cop dramas, there are some great performances from a cast that features top notch actors.